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Am I being targeted by the police?

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Editor: On July 22, 2015, while I sat in my home where I reside in Richland Park, six officers walked onto the said property, where I was sitting on a stool conversing with my father-in-law. I was called at, not by name, but instead “Hey you, hey you.” I did not respond or move from where I was sitting. I was then approached by six officers, who grabbed me by my pants and started dragging me to the police vehicle, where they forcefully put me into the vehicle.{{more}} They bent my finger back to take my phone away from me and two officers tried to choke me. I was not presented a warrant, however, just arrested, stating that I was operating a vehicle without insurance and licence. This has been an ongoing situation with the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines traffic department for the past four years. It has become complacent harassment and a breach of my constitutional rights, along with my human rights. I will no longer sit in silence as a citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines. I believe I am entitled to live in utmost peace, like all of the citizens and residents of this country.

My first encounter with the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Traffic Department was three years ago, when I was assaulted by a police officer while walking to the Central Police Station in Kingstown, because I was told that I was needed at the Central Police Station, because they said they had charges against me and so I went voluntarily. I started walking with the three police officers and according to one of the police officers, I was not walking fast enough. He then grabbed onto my arm and that is when I swore at him. He then proceeded to grab me again and started pushing me and shoved me until I got to the Central Police Station in Kingstown. While at the Kingstown police station, they told me that I have to pay for my tickets or I cannot leave the police station. Is this the law? Someone is not allowed to leave the Central Police Station until they pay for their tickets?

I would say approximately every two weeks, or even more, I am arrested by a member of the Police Traffic Department, which has hindered my daily life tremendously and I am beginning to believe I have been targeted by the Traffic Department for some reason which I cannot explain. I have always been a law-abiding citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines and therefore it is difficult for me to comprehend why I am arrested without reasonable grounds.

I believe it is my fundamental right not to be arrested without probable grounds. This issue needs to be addressed and an investigation needs to take place in regards to my complaint of being assaulted in public by a police officer and my weekly arrest, which I can safely say is a breach of my civil rights. It is also critical that we have a separate Complaints Commission put in place, where complaints are made against officers and procedures are implemented; a commission that has no affiliation with the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police force, a commission that is neutral and does not take sides in a dispute.

I am very much aware of the fact that the law enforcement agents are hired to serve the public. It is their duty to enforce the law, but in the same note, it does not give them the authority to act lawlessly. They must also abide by regulations outlined by the Government and accord people certain rights. I believe that it is crtical that there should be proper law enforcement training for police officers, so that any other citizen or resident of the country does not have to be subjected to what I have to endure. When officers act contrary to the law and abuse their power, then they are guilty of police harassment and this is what I have been subjected to as a citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

My life has been disrupted for the last four years due to injuries sustained by police during these unlawful arrests. I have not been able to go to work due to my injuries and I am a key person in the building of the Argyle international airport; I am needed by both my family and my country. I have been embarrassed and humiliated in front of my wife, my mother, father, sisters and I am standing firm in saying that this can no longer be a part of my day-to-day life. I am not a criminal and therefore should not be treated like a criminal. There are protocols that need to be valued during an arrest and any police interaction. The police need to understand that they work for the people and not against the people.

To the general public of St Vincent and the Grenadines, I may not be the only person facing this level of false arrest and police brutality, but let me say I want everyone to know I am a brother, an uncle and a husband and my life needs to be valued and not be threatened.

Tariq John

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